Couple with Vancouver ties face federal, Miss. charges

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A 2009 photo of Janet Killough Barreto

NEW ALBANY, Miss. — A couple accused of leaving their severely injured 2-year-old daughter at a hospital and keeping their other adopted children in putrid conditions is back in Union County after five years on the run.

Ramon Barreto kept his head down and remained silent as the Barretos arrived Sunday afternoon, but Janet Barreto said she was innocent, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.

“It’ll be proven, God pray,” she said. “Jesus is Number One.”

On Aug. 12, someone spotted the couple with an 11-month-old boy leaving Burlington Coat Factory in the Jantzen Beach SuperCenter in Portland, said Eric Wahlstrom, a supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal. The couple was taken into custody and authorities called Child Protective Services to take the boy.

The Barretos were using the aliases Emily and Juan Chavez, Wahlstrom said. Officials recently interviewed one of Janet Barreto’s associates, who said Barreto and her husband had been living in a Vancouver apartment for the past year. They’d been on the run since failing to show up in court in 2009.

Authorities said the Barretos had adopted at least seven children from Guatemala beginning in 2005, and kept them in a stinking mobile home in New Albany in northern Mississippi. The children were sometimes bound with duct tape and fed mostly cereal and bologna, authorities said.

The Barretos face 25 federal and state charges including child abuse and neglect, manslaughter and tampering with a witness in their daughter’s death in 2008.

They left 2-year-old Ena Barreto at a northern Mississippi hospital in 2008, saying she had fallen from a shopping cart, authorities said. The girl died at a children’s hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Barretos’ daughter Marainna Torres was convicted in Ena’s death in 2010. At her trial, she said she feared her parents and they forced her to punish the children, who were mostly under the age of 3, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported at the time. Torres said she threw the girl across the room and she hit her head.

Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards says the couple will face arraignment soon.

“It’s been a long road catching up to them,” he said.

He credited the U.S. Marshals Service for putting Janet Barreto on its 15 Most Wanted List and TV shows like “America’s Most Wanted” for keeping the case in the spotlight.